Green spaces – now government says they are important

Children’s ball games facility threatened

Not often that we agree with the Daily Mail and government Ministers but they’ve got this right.

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Communities need open spaces, outdoor sports facilities, green parks and amenity areas.

The York Council has a lamentable recent record in the Westfield area at least.

  • Our Lady’s school playing field – Gone
  • Lowfields sportsfield – Going
  • Acomb Bowling Green – Doomed
  • Kingsway kickabout area – Condemned
  • Hob Moor school playing field – Shrinking

….and that in the ward with the largest proportion of obese children in the City and the lowest life expectancy.

More York parks fly the Green Flag

It has been announced that Clarence Garden has retained Green Park status, putting it alongside four other parks in the city that also have the award.

Clarence Garden joins Rowntree Park, West Bank Park, Rawcliffe Country Park and Glen Gardens. These parks and garden were awarded green flag status in 2016.

This international award, now into its third decade, is a sign to the public that the space boasts the highest possible environmental standards, is beautifully maintained and has excellent visitor facilities.

Cllr Nigel Ayre, Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Tourism said: “It’s great to see that another community space has been awarded Green Flag status and this is testament to the hard work of both the friends groups and council staff who work to make these areas welcoming places for residents and visitors to enjoy.”

The Green Flag Awards recognise well managed parks and open spaces for all to enjoy and is the benchmark national standard in the UK. Launched in 1996, it promotes excellence in recreational green areas and standards are measured against eight criteria:

  • A welcoming place
  • Healthy, safe and secure
  • Clean and well maintained
  • Sustainability
  • Conservation and heritage
  • Community involvement
  • Marketing
  • Management

For more info on York’s parks visit https://www.york.gov.uk/directory/9/people_and_communities_directory/category/10

York Council criticised for slow response to fly tipping reports on Foxwood park

….as £50,000 a year expenditure on other parks announced

Fly tipping in Foxwood Park

More fly tipping

Cllr Sheena Jackson has criticised the Council for failing to clear up fly tipping on the Foxwood Park.

The tipping was reported nearly 3 months ago.

Sheena says she received an email from CYC “confirming it was agreed to be cleared it but it is still there”.

This was disappointing news for the volunteers who work hard to make sure that the park is kept clean.

There has been an outstanding display of daffodils this year and work has been undertaken to reduced ponding at the entrance gates to the field. A set of goal posts are expected to be erected on the field later in the year.

Good display of daffodils in Foxwood Park this year. Most were planted by volunteers

Sheena and the team have been cleaning up the park again this week

One issue being reported are potholes in the surface of the grassed area. It is a particular difficulty for partially sighted users.

 

Meanwhile the Council has announced that it will spend £50,000 a year supporting volunteers working in other parks in the City.

A report outlining proposals to “harness the expertise of community groups, provide volunteering opportunities and improve York’s green spaces” will be considered by the executive member for culture, leisure and tourism on 18 April.

The report sets out proposals to allocate £50,000 per annum funding to community projects at five parks in the city. “The proposals follow a wide ranging consultation by York CVS on behalf of the council”.

York CVS engaged with local stakeholders to discover the community needs and the best way for these needs to be fulfilled by local groups through the Growing Green Spaces scheme.

The funding has been specifically aimed towards five sites in the city. Proposals for each site were received by York CVS and have been recommended for approval including:

  • · Rowntree Park – this bid is lead by the Friends of Rowntree Park along with partners. They want to increase their care of the existing shrub / herbaceous borders and develop new garden features which will widen the appeal of the park
  • · West Bank Park – The project will be undertaken by the Blueberry Academy Gardening Team, which provides valuable work experience for trainees largely aged 18 to 24 with learning difficulties.  The proposal is to create a sensory garden in the park which will become an ongoing long term base from which the academy can operate.
  • · Glen Gardens – A bid by Therapeutic Art and Play Therapy Yorkshire with the support of the Friends of Glen Gardens and Refuge Action York. The project will see the group take over an existing shrub / herbaceous border meaning it will no longer need council care.
  • · Hull Road Park – A bid by The Conservation Volunteers will see weekly supported sessions with volunteers undertaking a range of horticultural and non horticultural tasks.
  • · Clarance Gardens – This project will utilise the same approach and source of volunteers as the Hull Road Park scheme.  The programme will focus on continuing the recent work in the Gardens which has seen the brightening up of the shrub beds with new planting.These changes will improve the visual impact of the gardens, be better for wildlife and reduce long term maintenance obligations.
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Parks and open spaces at risk as Council reveals maintenance plans

A new report claims to reveal what standards users of local public spaces and parks can expect in the future.

It follows a decision by the, then Labour led, Council in 2014 to lop £750,000 off maintenance budgets.
Volunteers have been keeping the Foxwood park tidy

Volunteers have been keeping the Foxwood park tidy

This was partly reinstated by the incoming, coalition led, Council who restored £150,000 of the cut. Some of this was used in the last financial year to support local tidy up campaigns but no comprehensive list of the neighbourhood schemes that have benefited has been provided by the Council.

A new allocation of £100,000 is being divided between Ward Committees (Westfield will get £6872) while a central pot of £50,000 may be allocated to more formal parks and City centre spaces.

The Council is agonising over whether to let a third party voluntary group (like York Cares) manage this budget.

The report says that, “each ward has taken a variety of approaches to meeting their savings targets including community groups taking on the maintenance of existing planting schemes and undertaking litter collection, as well as using local knowledge to remove unnecessary tasks”.

Grange Lane park neglected by Council

Grange Lane park neglected by Council

In reality, the vast majority of residents know nothing about what is being done to manage the quality of public space maintenance in their neighbourhoods. No articles on options have appeared in local newsletters so only a handful of people even know that change has occurred.

The Council hasn’t even published a list of sites and the frequency of grass cutting that can be expected. No service level agreements (“Customer contracts”) have been published.

Bachelor Hill Access footpaths and steps badly eroded.

Bachelor Hill Access footpaths and steps badly eroded.

So improvements are required.

Some areas like the Foxwood Park have attracted volunteers to undertake clean ups, but others like the Grange Lane park have had minimal support.

Areas, like the former Lowfields school playing fields, are largely ignored by the Council.

One encouraging development is the promised reintroduction of Street Environment Officers who were ditched by Labour (they have been restyled as “Environment Community Officers”). The officers will recommence the work which – up to 2011 – had seen a major reduction in local eyesores.

However, we don’t think that the Council quite “gets it” yet.

Recently a Residents Association raised funds to have an interpretation board placed on a local amenity area. The board provided details of the (unique) history of the site.

They were told by one section of the Council that they would need planning permission for the board.

On approaching the Planning Department, they were told that they would need to pay £60 if they wanted advice on whether planning permission was required.  If planning permission was needed, then a further £250 planning fee would be payable by the Association..

Several of these boards had been provided elsewhere by the Council – at taxpayers’ expense – without any application for planning permission being submitted.